The nice thing about basing yourself in Denver for a few days before you set off for your Rocky Mountain adventures is that you can go on some epic day trips from Denver and get to see the majestic mountains from different perspectives. Whether you choose to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, drive on the highest paved road in North America, drive supercars in a 3 canyon drive or catch a concert at an acoustically perfect natural amphitheater – options are endless! Plan for a few extra days in the Mile High city and go on some of these best day trips from Denver.
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Best Day Trips from Denver
Rocky Mountain National Park
Drive north through the city of Boulder on your way to one of America’s most treasured parks – Rocky Mountain National Park. Stroll around snow-covered Glacial Lake carved out and dammed by glaciers long ago. Observe herds of elk grazing on rich grasses in Moraine Park. See incredible mountain and park views at Many Parks Curve.
This highest-elevation national park in the country has 355 miles of hiking trails, scenic driving routes, more than 50 lakes and streams for fishing, and plenty of wildlife you can see elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. You can do this as a tour if you are not up to driving yourself.
Drive the Bear Lake Road to go deeper inside the park towards Bear Lake and to see beautiful views of the Continental Divide. Fall River Road, in the Alluvial Fan area is where you will find gigantic boulders. Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide and offers some amazing views.
Make sure to stop at Estes Park that sits on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson River runs right through the middle. Many locals call it the gateway to the Rockies.
From Chautauqua Park to Eldorado Canyon to Boulder Creek, there are no shortages of hiking, biking, tubing, and kayaking in Boulder, which is just 30 miles from Denver. It also has more than 20 breweries and some of the state’s best restaurants.
Often referred to as “the city nestled between reality and mountains,” Boulder is home to snow-capped peaks, natural sandstone slabs, and the Flatirons that helped to make it famous. You can also go on half-day fly fishing tour that provides a safe, fun, and authentic Colorado Rocky Mountain fishing experience. We loved trying out fly fishing, the last time we were in Vail.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Red Rocks is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world! The 738-acre park, with its striking jagged peaks and views of the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, is worth a Denver day trip whether or not there’s a show. Nearby, Dinosaur Ridge and its two-mile trail weave by 15 fossil and geologic sites. Some of the fossil specimens, from apatosaurus, stegosaurus, and allosaurus, date back 150 million years.
Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak Tour is another popular place – in this day trip from Denver, you will travel south from Denver toward Colorado Springs. You will experience some of the most breathtaking views in Colorado, walk through the historic Manitou Springs, and have the opportunity to walk around the stunning Garden of the Gods and visit America’s Mountain.
Slabs of sandstone rock rise from the verdant surroundings, beckoning visitors to the 480-acre park. It’s a must-see natural attraction and one that’s accessible to people of all abilities. There are 15 miles of trails, some as short as a half-mile long, road and mountain biking paths and a variety of rock climbing routes. Stop by the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center to learn more about how the geological wonder formed.
See few other family-friendly easy hikes in US National Parks
Just outside of Golden, CO you can take a luxury racing car along 500 plus turns on a 65-mile, 3 canyons drive through pine and cedar forest, past roaring streams and rivers and across open straightaways allowing you to flex the full capabilities of the roaring engine at your control.
Accelerate along thousands of feet of straightaway and around hairpin curves in order to test the limits of a premium super-car on this instructor-led group ride. Switch cars halfway through to experience 2 different supercars. While you are there, you can visit the Coors Brewery, the Buffalo Bill Museum and the final resting place of Wild West showman extraordinaire William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the American Mountaineering Museum.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, just 60 miles west of Denver, is the highest paved road in North America. A day trip to the top is a journey that snakes and climbs through nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain, from the high plains of Denver through five climate zones to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans – one of 54 peaks in Colorado that soar to 14,000 feet and above.
We attempted this drive, hoping to “bag” an easy fourteener but it was raining and sleeting and there was thick fog on roads, so we had to give up. While a tour is available for this, you have to drive this on your own so you can stop at the waterfalls and viewpoints en-route – I leave it up to you!
For unparalleled San Juan mountain views, jaw-dropping waterfalls and drives, plan a Southwest Colorado road trip and visit towns like Telluride, Ridgway and Ouray.
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